Delta Force

Delta Force
June 20 10:37 2010 Print This Article

Delta Force on Little Birds

The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta commonly known as Delta Force is an elite Special Operations Force (SOF) and an integral element of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). It is the United States’ primary counter-terrorist unit.

Delta Force’s primary tasks are counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency and national intervention operations, although it is an extremely versatile group capable of assuming many covert missions, including, but not limited to, rescuing hostages and raids.

Delta Force was formed after numerous, well-publicised terrorist incidents in the 1970’s led the U.S. government to create a counter-terrorist unit.

Key military and government figures had already been briefed on a model for this type of unit in the early 60’s. Charles Beckwith, a member of the US Army Special Forces had served as an exchange officer with the British Special Air Service (22 SAS Regiment). Upon his return, Beckwith presented a detailed report highlighting the Army’s vulnerability in not having an SAS-type unit. U.S. Army Special Forces in that period focused on unconventional warfare, but Beckwith recognised the need for highly autonomous teams specializing in direct action and counter-terrorism. He briefed military and government figures, who were initially resistant to create a unit outside of the Special Forces hierarchy. Finally, in the mid-70’s, as terrorism grew, Pentagon brass tapped Beckwith to form the unit.

Beckwith had estimated that it would take 24 months to get his new unit mission-ready. In the meantime, the 5th Special Forces Group created Blue Light, a small counter-terrorist contingent which operated until Delta became fully operational in the early 1980s.

On November 4, 1979, shortly after Delta had been created, 53 Americans were taken captive and held in the U.S.

Embassy in Tehran, Iran. The unit was assigned to Operation Eagle Claw, and ordered to covertly enter the country and recover the hostages from the embassy by force on the nights of April 24-25 and 25-26, 1980. The operation was aborted after flying problems and accidents. The review commission that examined the failure found 23 problems with the operation, among them unbriefed weather encountered by the aircraft, command-and-control problems between the multi-service component commanders, a collision between a helicopter and a ground-refueling tanker aircraft, and mechanical problems that reduced the number of available helicopters from eight to five (one fewer than the minimum desired) before the mission contingent could leave the transloading/refueling site.

After the failed operation, the U.S. government created several new counterterrorism units. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), also known as the Nightstalkers, was created specifically for Delta infil/exfil in missions like Operation Eagle Claw. The Navy’s SEAL Team Six was created for maritime incidents. The Joint Special Operations Command was also created to control and oversee joint training between the counter-terrorist assets of the various branches of the U.S. military.

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